Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues title=
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues
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Source: Environmental Defense Center

May 19 marks the four-year anniversary of the 2015 Plains All American Pipeline Refugio Oil Spill that released more than 140,000 gallons of heavy crude along 150 miles of the California Coast, from Gaviota to the Channel Islands, and as far south as Orange County. The spill closed public beaches, 138 square miles of fisheries, and killed hundreds of marine mammals and seabirds. Four years later, the threat of another spill looms large as ExxonMobil seeks to restart its offshore platforms and truck its oil along the same coastal route.

For the past four years, the Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) has been working diligently to ensure restoration of our coastline to its pristine, pre-spill condition and prevent future oil related disasters. At the same time, EDC is also fighting countless efforts to open our coast to more oil and gas drilling, restart fracking from the platforms just off our coast, and dangerously transport oil by trucks.

“It is unconscionable that, while we await full restoration of our coastline from the Plains All American spill, EDC and our partners must simultaneously work to prevent new oil and gas projects,” said Linda Krop, EDC’s Chief Counsel. “Communities impacted by the 2015 oil spill have spoken up in opposition to trucking oil, fracking, and increasing offshore oil production. In addition, Californians strongly support renewable energy development as an alternative, understanding its necessity to mitigate the impacts of climate change that are already upon us, from extreme weather events to sea level rise.”

While there is no end in sight to the threats that our community is facing, EDC remains vigilant in protecting the California Coast from oil and gas development. Here is what EDC is working on:

  • Defeat a dangerous proposal for ExxonMobil to resume production from three of its offshore oil platforms that have been shut down since the Refugio Oil Spill, and truck oil along the Gaviota Coast
  • Oppose new offshore oil and gas production in federal waters
  • End fracking from platforms
  • Advocate for stricter pipeline safety regulations
  • Improve oil spill response


EDC represents Sierra Club, Get Oil Out!, and EDC in opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposed offshore oil and gas leasing program. EDC represents Santa Barbara Channelkeeper and EDC in litigation to stop fracking from platforms offshore California. EDC represents Get Oil Out! and SBCAN in opposition to ExxonMobil’s proposal to restart its three Santa Ynez Unit platforms (Hondo, Harmony, and Heritage) and truck its oil from the Gaviota Coast to Santa Maria and Kern County.

Protecting the coast from offshore oil and gas development is a primary focus of EDC, which was formed in direct response to the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Since then EDC has defeated several oil development projects, blocked three proposals to import liquefied natural gas, and terminated forty federal offshore oil leases. Restoring our coast is critical to not only heal the natural environment, but to support our important tourism and fishing economies.

The Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has empowered community-based organizations to advance environmental protection.  Program areas include climate and energy, and protecting clean water, the Santa Barbara Channel, and open space and wildlife. Learn more about EDC at 

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a-1558368111 May 20, 2019 09:01 AM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

Let’s show the world the best environmentally safe way to drill, process and transport oil for which we are and will continue to be dependent until 2050. Why do we liberal, progressive-thinking educated Santa Barbara County residents want to buy and give profit to Saudi Arabia? It’s insane to support a culture that beheads LBGTQ people, allows men to own 4 wives to be discarded at whim, with many other practices we view as human right violations. Stand for environmental preservation, and both social and economic justice. We need high paying jobs in Santa Barbara County to support families and communities. We need to show the world best practice oil drilling by Santa Barbara Supervisors allowing drilling in return for continuous independent environmental protective oversight. Stop financially supporting Middle East inhuman treatment of humans. Let local resident families remain here with a good job! Drill oil locally.

Eggs Ackley May 28, 2019 07:21 AM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

Right on....until the next spill. You think big oil cares more for the environment than corporate profits? It's been shown repeatedly that laws and regulations are ignored and maintenance is minimized to the point of negligence. That KoolAid has an oily aftertaste and you're sucking it up.
One poster who will remain unnamed has called this a one time occurrence. Is that what is know as fake news? Is it willful ignorance? In face of clear and overwhelming evidence of repeated spills and hundreds of violations of federal and state regulations, it is clear that it is bald-faced LIE committed in defense of a pariah of the community.

Factotum May 28, 2019 07:36 AM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

Lois Capps (D) was our Congressional rep for 17 years and sat on the Pipeline Safety sub-committee. Did she do nothing to "protect our coast" during her long tenure and ignored "repeated abuses of regulations and laws"? Is Rep Salud Carbajal (D) doing any better?

a-1558375701 May 20, 2019 11:08 AM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

The platforms exist, like it or not. Decisions made decades ago cannot be wished away. These companies have bailout plans to bankrupt as demonstrated by Venoco. Choose to disallow feasible, financial remedies and the corporates file Ch. 11 leaving us the deteriorating platforms, pipelines and infrastructure. WE THE PEOPLE end up with this waste. As Venoco has delivered, we now own a deteriorating oil platform with zero feasible way to mitigate or remove. Theoretically, environmentally pristine ideals sound great. But the blissful ignorance of some very real consequences that ignore cooperation is certain to make it worse. Stop the market spin and solve based on what you have.

PitMix May 20, 2019 02:22 PM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

I believe these companies were made to pay into contingency funds that provide the money to remove the platforms whether or not the companies still exist. The arguments for leaving the platforms as artificial reefs made it sound like the money saved could them be spent elsewhere.

ACF May 20, 2019 12:06 PM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

Only oil industry people seem to have responded. Wake up, folks. Channel oil is not very good oil. Oil will run out all around the world in this century. Oil fouls our beaches and our air, and global warming, propelled by fossil fuels, will make our world uninhabitable. Think of the future. Make sure we have one!

macpuzl May 20, 2019 12:48 PM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

Fossil carbon as a fuel is a failed relic of the past. The jobs it supports here are low level and temporary, and newer technologies for renewable energy already provide better jobs. The amounts the fossil carbon industry reluctantly pay locally in taxes and partial mitigation of their destructive effects are a relative pittance that will soon evaporate. The faster we rid ourselves of these greedy parasites, in all countries, the better off the world will be.

a-1558385630 May 20, 2019 01:53 PM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

EDC, the folks who pushed for the idiotic higb-speed rail system through the central valley. Billions totally wasted and countless lives ruined. Why on earth do you keep telling us what is best for the environment because you surely do not know. What you know is how to get dollars for free to pay your salaries and recruit those interns and volunteers who work for basically free. BTW, shouldn't you be looking for new offices since your current location will be under water in 12 years?

Fitness1 May 20, 2019 02:09 PM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

If we want to reduce the demand/need for petroleum, we must reduce plastic use. Every water bottle, every smoothie container, every hand soap dispenser, every plastic food clamshell package, etc. etc, etc., all were birthed from petroleum. Look around at all of the plastic containers and dispensers in your household, and figure out how to reduce your purchase and use of these. It isn't just about fossil fuels, it is about the staggering amount of plastic we use every day. Since only 9.1% is even recycled, and more plastic is needed every year for more products, we are creating and producing more plastic than the Earth can handle. Use bar soap and powdered laundry detergent to start, for example.

PitMix May 20, 2019 02:28 PM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

If anyone wants to admit working for the oil industry in SB, I'd like to know what you think the future will hold for your children? Sure, you have a cushy job because of your work in a very high profit margin industry, passing along all of those costs to the consumers, but what kind of world are you leaving to your kids? Do you think there is any reason to try and minimize the amount of fossil fuel that we are using in our daily lives?

missausten May 20, 2019 04:23 PM
Four Years After the Refugio Oil Spill and the Fight Continues

I'm as green as they come and I'm against fracking, period. Green energy and technological inventions will eventually, maybe by 2050 - 2060 (?) enable the US to exist without the use of industrial and domestic petroleum products.
But until then, the reason the US will have to continue importing oil from Saudi Arabia/Middle East is that there's more than one type of oil. Developed countries like ours have advanced refineries that are designed to handle heavy crude oil. But fracking doesn't produce this type of oil - it produces light crude oil which only developing countries who have simpler refineries can use. For instance, Asia.
So be clear that even if we got rid of all the fracking today, we'd still depend on importing Saudi Arabian oil.

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